- Number 420 |
- August 18, 2014
Two early-career researchers at DOE's Idaho National Laboratory are earning international attention for their groundbreaking work. They're getting a long-sought look into the 3-D microstructure of irradiated nuclear fuel, and then feeding that data into cutting-edge fuel behavior models. Their work will make the design and testing of even safer nuclear fuels more informed and efficient.
The distinctive collaboration stemmed from a fertile environment at the Department of Energy's lead laboratory for nuclear energy research and development. That environment enabled an engineer and a computational scientist to easily work hand-in-hand toward a common goal. Their collaboration is noteworthy "because computer people and experimental scientists don't tend to interact much," said Michael Tonks.
Scientists have uncovered key attributes of so-called “brown carbon” from wildfires, airborne atmospheric particles that may have influenced current climate models that failed to take the material’s warming effects into account. The work was described by a collaborative team of researchers from DOE's Los Alamos National Laboratory, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Montana in the journal Nature Geosciences.
“Biomass burning and wildfires emit fine particulates that are toxic to humans and can warm or cool climate. While their toxicity is certain, their specific climatic effects remain unclear and are a hot research topic,” said Manvendra Dubey, a senior Los Alamos climate scientist. “Smoke from wildfires accounts for one-third of the Earth’s ‘black’ carbon — the familiar charred particles that are associated with fires with large flames. While black carbon is relatively simple — solely consisting of carbon — brown carbon contains a complex soup of organic material, making it difficult to identify, characterize and model.”
Slag is a molten mixture of process waste ashes from the power and metallurgical industries. In gasification, slag is made from mineral impurities that remain after a carbon feedstock such as coal has been gasified. In metal refining, slag contains impurities removed from a metal while it is refined. Slag is basically waste that is landfilled in many countries, including the U.S. Two researchers at DOE's National Energy Technology Laboratory have found a way to make slag more valuable. They determined that by mixing two particular types of slag at a unique ratio they can generate energy and fuels.
Specialized windshield glass, everyday plastic water bottles, and countless other products are based on ethylene, a simple two-carbon molecule, which requires an energy-intense separation process to pluck the desired chemical away from nearly identical ethane. To eliminate the extreme cooling required in the separation, an international team including researchers at DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory designed a material with a porous framework that greatly prefers ethylene. What makes this material particularly potent is that the highly selective sorbent is stable in air and water. In addition, the framework offers a high surface area that speeds the sorting. The material contains silver that binds with the electrons around ethylene's double-bonded carbon atoms. These electrons are known as π electrons or the π cloud.